Escherichia coli (E. coli) mazEF is a toxin-antitoxin (TA) stress-induced module that mediates cell death requiring the quorum-sensing pentapeptide NNWNN designated EDF (extracellular death factor). E. coli toxin MazF is a sequence-specific endoribonuclease cleaving single-stranded mRNAs at ACA sequences. E. coli ChpBK, a toxin homologous to MazF, is a sequence-specific endoribonuclease cleaving single-stranded mRNAs at ACA, ACG, and ACU sequences. Here we report that, in vitro, the signaling molecule EDF significantly amplifies the endoribonucleolytic activities of both MazF and ChpBK. EDF also overcomes the inhibitory activity of the antitoxins MazE over the toxin MazF and ChpBI over ChpBK. EDF sequence is important for both functions. Moreover, direct sequence-specific binding of EDF to MazF has been confirmed. Peptide-protein modeling revealed parallel contacts between EDF-MazF and MazE-MazF. These findings are intriguing, since most known quorum-sensing molecules monitor gene expression on the transcriptional level, while EDF monitors posttranscriptionally.
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We thank F.R. Warshaw-Dadon (Jerusalem, Israel) for her critical reading of the manuscript. We thank Joseph Shlomai (Jerusalem, Israel) for his advice. This research was supported by grant number 66/10 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) administrated by the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, the USA Army grant W911NF0910212, and National Institutes of Health grant GM069509 . N.L. and M.S. are part of the O.S.-F. group.